rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Looking back to Election Eve, 2008, with happy memories of Layton, Jack

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $5 per month!

Jack Layton, 1950-2011

Don't mourn! Organize!
          — Joe Hill, Swedish-American union organizer

It's OK to mourn the loss of Jack Layton, of course, Joe Hill's wise strategic counsel to social activists notwithstanding.

It's also OK to take a moment to mourn before we start to talk about the implications for the Canadian New Democratic Party of the death of Mr. Layton, which are very grave and must not be brushed away with glib optimism as I am sure many of us are tempted to do at a moment like this.

Canada's New Democratic Party leader was beloved by many of us and respected by many more. His loss at the age of 61, still in the prime of his political life, comes as a profound shock, even to those of us who feared the worst after his news conference less than a month ago, at which he announced he was stepping down as leader of the Opposition to battle a new onslaught of cancer.

For those of us who have heard Mr. Layton speak, let alone who have met and talked with him, it is very hard to comprehend that someone so full of life could be alive no more.

On the theory that the best mourning is done by retelling happy tales that illustrate the character of our departed comrade, let me tell you about my peculiar relationship with Mr. Layton, the only leader of a national or provincial political party ever to have picked up the telephone and made a cold call to me, to ask me for an unusual favour, no less.

Actually, this is a bit of a fib. He had a political aide call first, to make sure I'd be waiting by my telephone when he phoned. But the aide, a very polite young person whose name, I'm afraid, escapes me at this moment, refused to reveal the topic of the upcoming call.

This happened back in 2008, and to tell you the truth, with a federal election looming, I thought Mr. Layton might be about to ask me to be a candidate in one of those Alberta ridings that was and is as lost a cause for the NDP as, say, a rural riding in Quebec…

In the event, however, Sunny Jack astounded me with another request entirely. Would I consider becoming, he asked, the poet laureate of the NDP?

Well, maybe the word laureate never left his lips, but without a doubt the phrase poet of the NDP was uttered more than once.

This turned out to be the brainchild of a mischievous Toronto business journalist and teacher named Kimberly Noble, a former colleague of mine at the Globe and Mail's Report on Business who apparently had Mr. Layton's ear on certain matters. It seems she had persuaded him of the potential political uses of light verse on current topics and given him the idea I was just the guy to dash off such stuff on demand.

Of course I said yes, although I'm sorry to report that nothing much came of this cheerful scheme. Presumably cooler heads prevailed in the busy months leading up to the great achievement of May 2011.

On the other hand, Mr. Layton consistently responded, politely and swiftly, when I misused his private Parliamentary email address and sent him questions for the enlightenment of this blog's readers, so all was not for naught.

Now, at a moment when New Democrats really need a poet laureate, we are all struck dumb. So let's look back to Election Eve, 2008, and to a happy plea that came true to a remarkable degree in 2011.

But what will we do now? That, of course, is a question for a few hours hence…

Election Eve, 2008

We've heard the pitches, promised goals
Put forth by Tories and by Libs.
Why are they sinking in the polls?
Perhaps because they're mostly fibs!
Now that they know they can't relate
Because their plans, revealed, are seen
To be a failure in debate,
They hope to get us voting Green,
It's their last chance, the only way
To beat the surging NDP
And save their butts on Voting Day.
We hope that all Canadians see:
To get the country back on track
It's time to vote for Layton, Jack!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.